By Don Davis
Minnesota’s 2014 election campaign really got underway Monday.
Republicans were looking to make a dent in Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party domination of state government, while Democrats sought ways to keep almost total power in state government.
Both sides expressed optimism as they launched campaigns after weekend state political conventions. Statewide Republican-endorsed candidates flew around Minnesota, visiting the state’s major media markets.
Today is the final day candidates may file for office, but most races already are locked in.
The most interesting race may be a four-way contest to get the Republican governor nomination, a rare GOP primary fight.
The candidate endorsed by GOP state convention delegates on Saturday, Jeff Johnson, faces three others in an Aug. 12 GOP primary election before any Republican can go up against Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. Kurt Zellers and Scott Honour planned all along to run in the primary, and Marty Seifert told the state convention Saturday night that he also would be in the race.
In a St. Paul appearance before GOP candidates took off on their fly-around, Johnson emphasized his electability in rural, suburban and urban areas. He lives in the suburbs, is a Hennepin County commissioner and grew up in western Minnesota’s Detroit Lakes.
“We can actually bring in new voters from all regions of the state,” Johnson said. “The key is we have to bring in more independents.”
Seifert, however, said he has a head start with backers in all 87 counties.
On Monday, Seifert looked back at the controversial end of the GOP convention and said he would have done better had the convention started voting for governor in the morning, as planned, but since the U.S. Senate race still was not decided, that delayed governor balloting until late afternoon.
Seifert spoke to the convention Saturday evening, stopping short of withdrawing from the endorsement race. That angered GOP Chairman Keith Downey, who said it was an effort to prevent an endorsement of anyone, one of the harshest comments political observers remember a party chairman making about a fellow Republican.
“I love Keith Downey,” Seifert proclaimed Monday, indicating that he was sorry how the convention ended.
“Over a third of the convention were missing,” Seifert said, with many of the missing his supporters.
Seifert and Honour filed paperwork Monday to run for governor.
There was a glitch when Honour running mate state Sen. Karin Housley did not have the $300 filing fee after they signed papers in the secretary of state’s office.
“We will see what cash we can round up,” said Honour, a wealthy Twin Cities businessman.
After they paid the fee, Honour told reporters that the two would be good for Minnesota because they both come from the private sector. That background, he said, “is really going to resonate with Minnesotans.”
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden, still hoarse from the weekend convention, said Minnesotans are tired of Democrats holding all statewide offices.
“I want to compare records” with incumbent Sen. Al Franken, McFadden said. “I’m going to be positive.”
McFadden still could face a Republican challenger. State Rep. Jim Abeler pledged to run in the primary regardless of the state convention outcome.
Republicans were in the spotlight most of Monday after their governor and U.S. Senate battles during the weekend, but about 60 Democratic House candidates appeared in the state Capitol complex, too.
“We are really, I think, feeling the momentum that is behind us,” House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, D-St. Paul, said, indicating that Minnesotans like what has happened with Democrats in control of the House, Senate and governor’s office.
While Republicans criticize Democrats for raising taxes more than $2 billion last year, first-time House candidate Laurie Driessen of Canby said taxes do not need to be boosted again to support her causes, issues such as improved care for the disabled and better rural education funding.